Greece to step up border patrols - GulfToday

Greece to step up border patrols

Migrant-Greece

Migrants stand outside the Moria camp in Lesbos on Saturday. Agence France-Presse

Greece said on Saturday it would step up border patrols and move asylum-seekers on its islands to the mainland in an effort to deal with a resurgence in migrant flows from neighbouring Turkey.

The government’s Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA) convened for an emergency session following the simultaneous arrival on Thursday of over a dozen migrant boats, the first of its kind in three years. The increase in arrivals has piled additional pressure on the country’s overcrowded island camps, all of which are operating at least twice their capacity.

Arrivals - mostly of Afghan families - have picked up over the summer, and August marked the highest number of monthly arrivals in three years.

On Saturday, the government said it will move asylum-seekers to mainland facilities, increase border surveillance together with the European Union’s border patrol agency Frontex and Nato, and boost police patrols across Greece to identify rejected asylum seekers who have remained in the country.

It also plans to cut back a lengthy asylum process, which can take several months to conclude, by abolishing the second stage of appeals when an application is rejected, and deporting the applicant.

Further, the government will reunite 116 children with their families in other European countries.

Greece’s Moria camp on the island of Lesbos - a sprawling facility where conditions have been described by aid organisations as inhumane - is also holding the highest number of people since the deal was agreed.

In Skala Sykamineas, a small fishing village at the north end of Lesbos, locals fear the arrival of 500 migrants on Thursday may signal a repeat of the 2015 migrant crisis.

“I will never be able to forget the thousands of people that arrived to this beach in the summer of 2015. Children, families, wounded by this difficult journey,” said Elpiniki Laoumi, the owner of a local tavern.

“The 13 boats docked right in front of the restaurant. I don’t want to see the same scenes of 2015 again,” Laoumi said. “Many locals complain about the refugees and think they come because they choose to. I know what it means to be a migrant and it is not easy,” said Stella, a retired Greek who migrated as a youngster in Australia and returned to her home for vacations.

Agencies